Related post: LUBP Interview with Kamran Shafi
In the following article, veteran columnist Kamran Shafi, one of the very few bold, anti-establishment voices in Pakistani media, provides details of a recent attack on his life in Wah Cantt by the foot-soldiers of the military establishment. Mr. Shafi also describes the threat he received that it was just the ‘trailer’ and that the complete movie would also be shown. LUBP strongly condemns this attack. We demand that the army chief, the ISI chief and the interior minister must take serious note of this incident; a thorough investigation must be conducted to identify and punish the culprits. It is not an attack on one person, it is an attack on the freedom of press which must be unconditionally condemned by all human rights and media organizations.
In it, up to our necks
By Kamran Shafi
01 Dec, 2009
So then, December is upon us, another year has gone by in the Fatherland’s struggle to keep its head above water, to be accepted as another half-civilised country in the comity of nations.
The very same terrorists who were running amok during the Commando’s time in the sun while he and his collaborators ran with the hares and hunted with the dogs, are somewhat under control due to the political will of the major political parties of the country which has forced the security establishment to become pro-active.
I say ‘somewhat’ because almost all of the Swat/Fata Yahoo leadership is either not yet apprehended or killed, the chief murderers Fazlullah and Mehsud either escaping into Afghanistan, Fazlullah purportedly on one leg, the other melting into the countryside. The ones apprehended, such as Muslim Khan the Terrible are being kept under wraps, i.e., have appeared in no court of law. He is charged, may we remind ourselves, with cold-hearted murder, rebellion against the state, robbery and dacoity, and petty theft.
More, much more has happened to us hapless and lay Pakistanis, and to our country in the year gone by. And the jewel in that is the wilful near-revolt by our Rommels and Guderians when they thoughtlessly and recklessly came out publicly in a press release by the ISPR against the aid bill that the American Congress voted into law to give mainly civilian aid to help upgrade the education, health and other infrastructure sectors. It came with a military component too under certain conditions, mainly that the secretary of state will certify to Congress periodically that the Pakistan Army is firmly under the control of the civilian, elected please note, authority. Our Rommels and Guderians were said to be ‘furious’ at the wording of the bill.
Yet, barely nine days after their ‘fury’ had been vented on us ‘bloody civilians’, the commander US Centcom came a-calling, in which meeting the COAS Pakistan Army, conveniently forgetting the ‘fury’ he and his fellow generals felt at the wording of the aid bill, by now called the KLL for it had become US law, asked for early shipment of ‘sophisticated weapons’ for the fight against terror!
And what has yours truly been writing about during the past year? About hypocrisy and two-facedness. About the foibles of our politicians, specially of the PPP breaking its solemn promises made with the PML-N; the completely foolish and self-defeating coup against the elected, constitutional government of Punjab by Salmaan Taseer, erstwhile friend and campaigner for people’s rights, foolishness soon put right by the newly independent judiciary.
I noted, however, that whilst politicians can be put in their places by the electoral process itself which is always the preferred method, the superior judiciary is also there to correct the course where it is seen that a certain action is unconstitutional. Such as Salmaan’s coup. But what, pray, does one do with a rampant security establishment that deems it below its dignity to submit to the popular will i.e. the will of the people, as exercised through their chosen, elected representatives, ‘bloody civilians’ though they be? I have written about all of the above.
And also about why that Holy of Holies, the Mother of All Agencies, should be considered the exclusive preserve of the Pakistan Army when every other intelligence agency of note across the world is headed by civilians? I must add here that I received at least three emails containing the vilest abuse after I asked why a civilian could not head the ISI, a few weeks ago.
A little anecdote here: during CIA director Leon Panetta’s (Panetta was President Clinton’s chief of staff and is a ‘bloody civilian’) recent visit to the citadel of Islam, a vehicle in his motorcade from Benazir Bhutto airport to the ISI HQ overturned due to over-speeding and the penchant of Pakistani ‘security car’ drivers to stay as close to the VIP’s car come what may, was said in the press release to belong to a ‘sensitive agency’. I ask you! As if we ‘bloody civilians’ thought the overturned vehicle belonged to that dead-as-a-dodo ministry of tourism.
On the night of Nov 27-28, 2009, my house in Wah, where my wife and daughter and I had come to celebrate Eidul Azha, was fired upon six times by a high velocity firearm, probably a Kalashnikov (on single shot mode) judging from the half-inch deep and two-inch across holes in the concrete wall of the bedroom above ours, possibly a Takharov 30 MM pistol, popularly known as ‘TT Pistol’ in the Land of the Pure.
There was no sound of a motor vehicle driving away, suggesting professional hit-men who had probably parked their vehicle a way away towards the main GT Road and then calmly walked to it after doing their deed.
There were no empties found at the site giving further credence to the above theory — the assailants had taken care to catch the bullet casings before they fell to the ground, for you do not start looking for empties in the dead of night for fear of getting caught in the act. One of the ways that we used in the army during firing practice in my day was to hold a beret over the ejection port. We had to account for every round fired which I am sure is the case even now.
There is more: at exactly 17:33 on Nov 28, 2009, I received a telephone call from a woman speaking in uneducated Urdu and using a mobile phone (0300-274-9185). She asked if I was Kamran Shafi. When I said I was, she said that what had happened to me last night was just the ‘trailer’ and that the complete movie would also be shown.
When I asked why any of this should happen, she said, ‘One does not spit in the plate one eats from’, and that if I was not careful about what I write I would soon see the complete movie. I am a pensioner of the Pakistan Army, getting the princely sum of Rs1,200 a month, by the way. FIR No 827 has been registered at the Wah Cantonment PS in which I have in an additional application said that I suspect an ‘agency’ of doing the deed.
I must end by saluting Mian Nawaz Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari for telephoning me inside of 15 and 17 minutes of my sending messages to their staff respectively, about what had happened. And the Punjab government for providing me and my family the best security it can. This is exactly why I stand on the side of elected leaders and against any further interference in our country’s politics by the men on donkey-back.
Dawn columnist attacked, blames Pak agencies
Wed Dec 02 2009,
A gunman opened fire on the house of a newspaper columnist critical of Pakistan’s army and spy agencies in an attack the writer alleged on Tuesday was carried out by elements linked to the country’s powerful security establishment.
Kamran Shafi recounted the attack and a death threat he received the following day in his weekly column in the respected Dawn newspaper. He and his family were not injured in the incident in Rawalpindi on Friday.
The army spokesman declined to comment. Shafi, a former army major, is a prominent critic of the military and its influence over the country’s weak civilian leadership. The issue has been in the spotlight in recent weeks amid rising pressure on President Asif Ali Zardari from within the military.
Shafi said a gunman fired six times at his house before collecting the bullet casings and fleeing. Shafi, his wife and daughter were in the house during the late night attack, but in a room below the one where the bullets entered.
The day after the shooting, Shafi received a call from a woman who said what happened was a “trailer” and that the complete movie would be shown soon. “One does not spit in the plate one eats from,” she allegedly said. In his column, Shafi said he had filed a police complaint in which he alleged suspects linked to unidentified state security agencies were involved. He did not give any evidence to back up the allegation.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, he said he would continue criticising the army’s role in the affairs of the state.
Pakistan Media Watch writes:
In more evidence of the growing threat to free media in Pakistan,veteran journalist Kamran Shafi’s house was strafed with gunfire over the weekend.
The shooting comes after repeated threats to Mr. Shafi’s life by telephone and warnings to him not to continue writing about security in Pakistan.
Police report that they have made no headway in identifying the shooters or those threatening Mr. Shafi. The woman caller, according to Mr. Shafi, spoke in broken Urdu.
Most troubling about this attack is that, when the shooter let loose a hail of bullets on Mr. Shafi’s home, he was celebrating Eid holiday with his wife and daughter who could have been killed in the attack. This demonstrates that not only are these killers intending to silence free and open media discussion in Pakistan, they are willing to commit the most devious of murders to get their way.
In addition to the obvious threats to the journalist and freedom of the media in Pakistan, this incident has not gone unnoticed in the international media and serves as an embarrassment for Pakistan.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, which has already condemned Pakistani newspaper The Nation for endangering the life of an American journalist, wrote that this is evidence of Pakistan’s media environment deteriorating:
“CPJ condemns this attack on such a prominent Pakistani journalist,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “Pakistan’s media environment is declining rapidly as a consequence of the political and military strife erupting under the government of President Asif Ali Zardari. Local and foreign journalists are coming under threat from all sides to the country’s many conflicts. Increasingly, Pakistan’s free press is under a threat almost as menacing as that under former president Pervez Musharraf ,” added Dietz.
I have written before about how threatening journalists threatens press freedom. Then, I was writing about Ahmed Quraishi’s dismissal of concerns about the safety of American journalist Matthew Rosenberg. But as the attempted murder of Kamran Shafi clearly proves, it is not just American journalists whose lives are increasingly in danger.
A free and unbiased media is the cornerstone to a healthy and stable democracy. By threatening journalists, the people involved in this incident have proven themselves to be enemies of our democracy. By using violence to try to intimidate and threaten innocent people, they have proven themselves to be nothing but terrorists. (Source)
A specimen of Kamran Shafi’s bold criticism of Pakistan’s military establishment which upsets an establishment loyalist